LGA: Cross-government strategy needed for children and young people

“Our young people will feel the impact of the pandemic for many years to come and it will be more important than ever to make sure that the right approaches are taken to help families."

Little girl in library

A cross-Government strategy is needed for children and young people to ensure they are at the heart of the national recovery and can thrive, no matter where they are from, the Local Government Association urges today.

Over the past 15 months, children and young people have made huge sacrifices after experiencing major disruption to their education and losing out on time with their friends and wider family. Birthday parties, proms and sports days have all been cancelled, while many teenagers have missed out on their exams, jobs and traditional rites of passage. 

As a result, not only are young people having to cope with significant social and educational challenges, they are also struggling with their mental health in increasing numbers, and some have had to live in homes with domestic abuse taking place. Young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) have been particularly affected by repeated lockdowns and school disruption during the pandemic.

Councils have worked hard with schools on education recovery during COVID-19 to ensure that no child is left behind, and have helped government to distribute millions of pounds of funding to support young people and families in need, from food parcels and vouchers, to IT equipment to help vulnerable children learn online. Councils have also organised holiday activities and kept parks open wherever possible to give children vital opportunities to play.  

The LGA, which represents councils in England and Wales, says the pandemic is a crucial opportunity for national and local government to work more closely together to achieve shared goals for the national recovery. It has raised concerns over instances where government departments have not aligned their objectives, such as with their child-focused campaigns which has left councils unclear which campaign to prioritise or how they supported each other, which ultimately risks not delivering better outcomes for children, young people and families.

The LGA’s policy paper, A Child Centred Recovery, calls for a cross-Whitehall strategy that puts children and young people at the heart of recovery, to ensure every child can recover lost learning and life experiences, with local safety nets properly resourced and well organised. A child-centred recovery shouldn’t focus solely on education and children’s services, but also good quality affordable homes, space to play, access to libraries, clean air and safe streets.

A greater join-up across government departments could help to improve outcomes for families, while better data sharing across government would help councils ensure that more disadvantaged and disabled children are accessing their full early education entitlements. It would mean that initiatives, such as integrated care systems, deliver better opportunities for children and would also help local government look at how they could make sure children are growing up in good quality homes close to good schools, their family and friends.

Council-run youth services, which are a vital social outlet for many young people, have seen funding reduced by more than two-thirds in real terms since 2010/11, from £1.4 billion to £429 million.

The LGA is calling for the Government’s £500 million Youth Investment Fund – first promised in September 2019 - to be made available as soon as possible and for all local councils to have enough funding to ensure youth services are available for young people. It is also calling on government to restore £1.7 billion in lost Early Intervention Grant funding to councils to help reinstate some lost services which can help all children, young people and families to thrive.

It is essential that government continues to support councils, providing them with the freedoms to innovate; investment in preventative and early help services; and a cross-Whitehall strategy to co-ordinate efforts between Whitehall and local areas.

Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said:

“Our young people will feel the impact of the pandemic for many years to come and it will be more important than ever to make sure that the right approaches are taken to help families.

“A cross-Whitehall strategy is needed that puts children and young people at the heart of recovery and ensures the services that support children and their families are fully funded so the younger generation can lead more enriched and fulfilling lives as we emerge from the pandemic.

“We want to work with government to ‘Build back local’ and help give all children a great childhood and help families to thrive, rather than struggle. This means developing a strategy which will focus on how we can level up for the next generation and ensure young people get the best opportunities, no matter where they are from.”

Notes to Editors

  1. LGA Vice President David Simmonds MP has secured a Westminster Hall debate today on developing a cross-Government strategy for children and young people. The debate is being live streamed on Parliament TV at 4.05pm on Wednesday 14 July.
  2. The Troubled Families programme made the case for cross-government approach. The most recent evaluation of the programme demonstrated the benefits of taking a co-ordinated, multi-agency approach to preventative services, and focusing on the interactions between underlying factors that impact on outcomes. 
  3. In December 2020 the Home Office and Department for Education (DfE) launched their own campaigns (“Something’s not right” from the Home Office and “Together, we can tackle child abuse” from the DfE) around tackling child abuse within a day of each other, with neither campaign referencing the other. This caused confusion among councils, who were keen to support each campaign’s objectives but were unclear which campaign to prioritise or how they supported each other.
  4. ‘A child-centred recovery’ and ‘Build back local’ – LGA publications.